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Chinese Boy Charms

Chinese for charm with boy on top
Traditionally, Chinese parents have favored sons over daughtersThroughout much of China's history, the ideal family size was considered to be 5 sons and 2 daughters.

Chinese boy
              charmSons were responsible for continuing the ancestral lineage and carrying out ancestor worship.
  Ancient Chinese society placed a great emphasis on having children, particularly males, to carry out Confucian filial piety responsibilities and rituals.

Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子), the most famous Confucian scholar after Confucius, said "there are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is the greatest of them."

It was hoped that one or more of the sons would be successful in the imperial examination system and achieve the rank of a high government position which would bring honor and wealth to the family.

When sons grew up they were responsible for caring for their elderly parents.  When daughters grew up, they would marry, leave home and be responsible for caring for their in-laws.

There is a type of Chinese charm that illustrates this desire for male children.  These charms are said to be more commonly found in southern China and usually depict a boy in a position of reverance standing on top of a traditional round charm. 

Sometimes the lower portion of the charm has a Chinese inscription, and sometimes it displays other Chinese good luck symbols.

These boy charms usually have an eyelet on the back so that they can be hung or worn.

In Chinese, these boy charms are known as
tong zi lian qian (童子连钱) which roughly translates as boy connected or linked to money.
Chinese charm with boy standing on top
This is an example of such a pendant charm with a boy standing on top.  The charm was reportedly found in Guizhou Province in southern China.

As can be seen, the boy is shown in a traditional position of reverance.  His hands are clasped together in front of his chest, his knees are bent, and his body is leaning slightly forward as if he were bowing.

The body position also reminds one of the Chinese maritial arts.

The boy is standing on top of a more traditional Chinese charm with a round hole in the middle.  This is known as an "open work" charm because there are openings or holes between the design elements.  (Please see Chinese Open Work Charms.)

The lower portion of the charm displays images of four different flowers.

At the top is a
tree peony or mudan (牡丹).  Because of the way it sometimes grows as doubles, the peony looks to the Chinese like strings of cash coins and the flower has thus come to symbolize prosperity and wealth.

For this reason, the peony is also known as fuguihua (富贵花) which means "flower of wealth and honor".

To the right of the hole is the plum
(mei 梅).  The plum symbolizes courage and hope because it blossoms first and bravely stands steadfast against the dangers of winter.

Additionally, the five petals of the plum blossom symbolize the "five blessings" (wufu 五福), also known as the "five happinesses" or "five good fortunes". The five blessings are longevity (
寿), wealth (富), health and composure (康宁), virtue (修好德), and the desire to die a natural death in old age (考 终命).

              side of pendant charm with boy on topTo the left of the hole is a lotus which in Chinese is lianhua (莲花) or hehua (荷花)Lian is also the pronunciation for the Chinese word "continuous" (连) and he is the pronunciation for the word "harmony" (和).   The lotus thus has the symbolic meaning of "continuous harmony".

But the symbolism goes even deeper.

Lotus seeds (lianzi 莲 籽) have the hidden meaning of continuous birth of sons because the lian sounds like "continuous" (连) and the zi has the same pronunciation as the word for son or child (zi 子).

As already mentioned, this type of charm is referred to in Chinese as tong zi lian qian (童子连钱) which roughly translates as "boy connected to money".  The tong zi (
童子) means "boy" but the character zi (子) sounds the same as the zi (籽) in lotus seed. And, the lian (连) meaning "connect" sounds the same as lian (莲) for lotus.

At the bottom of the charm is the
chrysanthemum (ju 菊), a member of a group known as the Four Gentlemen, which blooms late and confronting the winter symbolizes those who maintain their virtue despite adversity and temptation.

The chrysanthemum also symbolizes "forever" (yongjiu 永久), and thus "longevity", because of the similarity in pronunciation.

This bronze boy charm is 93 mm in length and has a maximum width of 45 mm.

    Return to Ancient Chinese Charms and Coins